Re: The word timbre: origins

Subject: Re: The word timbre: origins
From: John Kamevaar (
Date: Wed Sep 29 2004 - 18:11:26 EDT

I'm looking at my old Webster's (ironic name it's become) and seeing the
semantic field of tonality, the apparently inextricable union of timbre
and tonality, fused through its common element with a visual trope:
colour, which seems to inscribe it in a contradictive context: the most
"expressive" quality, and yet an "accidental".

John Kamevaar wrote:

> In the old language (of philosophy), we could amuse ourselves by
> entertaining the notion that timbre is the specific attribute of a
> sound, constituting its "essence", if pitch and envelope are
> accidental, that is - formal positions that are intrinsically exterior
> to
> timbre and universally applicable within a limited range of
> possibility. A quality can still be "disinctive" even if it is
> entirely dependent. Or no?
> Kevin Austin wrote:
>> Whether pitch is a facet of timbre or is 'something else' has been
>> discussed and examined. A high frequency to (9.5kHz) may be
>> perceived
>> as timbral in nature, and most people who have been tested find it
>> difficult to give repeatable pitch information about it.
>> One could consider a simple recitation of the vowels /a/ /i/ /I/
>> /eh/
>> /o/ /u/, followed by singing the sequence on a mid-range note,
>> followed by singing on a high note, followed by singing on a low
>> note
>> and determine in which cases pitch is more dominant and in which
>> pitch is more dominant.
>> Part of the reference is to the idea that when a flute and an oboe
>> produce the same pitch, which parameter is perceived as varying?
>> While pitch perception has been widely studied, spectral (timbral)
>> perception is still quite poorly understood / codified. While some
>> people have difficulty telling a violin from a viola, others are
>> able
>> to comment on the quality of the violin in relation to other
>> violins.
>> Best
>> Kevin
>> At 14:06 -0500 2004/09/28, Prof Malone wrote:
>> >on 9.28.04 2:56 PM, John Kamevaar at
>> wrote:
>> >
>> > >> a helmet or skull cap, a heraldic crest, etc.).
>> >i like this one timbre is like the hat a sound wears
>> >>>
>> >>>[as distinct from its pitch
>> >>> or intensity]'
>> >i would think as distinct from other sounds (hats)
>> >as pitch is a facet of timbre
>> >--
>> >happy tunes
>> >don malone
>> >
>> >it takes all of us

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